So, this discussion will cover three main topics. First ~ yoga: its purpose and benefits. Second ~ what is Kundalini Yoga and the Kundalini Energy. Finally, how does Kundalini Yoga compare to other types of yoga.
Okay – let’s tackle the big elephant first. Yoga: its purpose and benefits.
Perhaps your introduction to yoga happened the same way mine did. A friend you respect brings you along one day. It is a crowded twilight room with a bit of an odd smell. Following your neighbors you move your body into positions you have never contemplated before. The sweaty evening culminates with an abbreviated headstand (after all, you could do one when you were five) where your legs crash into the person next to you. The next day you wake up, stretch, and are confronted with the shocking realization you have muscles between your ribs ~ muscles on fire.
Despite those aching interstitial muscles, you are hooked, along with so many others. You are hooked because when your leg starts to shake, when your arms start to burn, when your fingers slip off your big toe for the 6th time … that is all you are. You are not your mortgage payment, or your fight with your partner, or your presentation at work. You are your breath, the feel of the fan on your skin, the trickle of sweat creeping towards your elbow, the feel of your breath raising your belly, your determination to stretch a bit further, your tearing muscle fibers. You are that present moment where your mind noise has receded to the point where you are still and open. That is the point of Yoga.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means “union.” The purpose of yoga is to merge the your individual consciousness into the Infinite consciousness. Early forms of this practice were codified over 100,000 years ago. This is our birthright from the ancients: to have this technology that cleanses the body, mind, and soul.
Often when people think of the benefits of yoga they think of the physical postures. The postures of yoga directly affect each system of the body as the motions compress and stretch the body in ways that flush and activate blood, lymph, tissue, glands, and organs. (This is obvious to anyone with sore interstitial muscles.) Yoga, in its complete form, is a lifestyle, imparts greater awareness and appreciation for your chakras, and functions as a biofeedback loop for your body’s own internal processes. In short, the days you don’t practice ~ not only might your neck feel stiff, you may not feel like yourself overall.
Note, I said, “Yoga in its complete form.”
To elucidate the second point, I am going to take a small detour to introduce us to a sage named Patanjali. Patanjali is renowned for his Yoga Sutras, a codification of the practice of yoga, that were written some time between 200 and 600 AD. He organized yoga into 8 limbs. Yamas and Niyamas, two of the limbs, are about lifestyle and mental choices: eg., being honest, practicing purity of body, letting go of jealousy. Asana and Pranayam address Yoga postures and breathing techniques. The remaining 4 limbs, Pratayar, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi describe the processes that occur as the individual becomes more and more absorbed into Spirit, strengthening one’s intuition and awakening into one’s true self.
Kundalini Yoga includes all eight limbs in each practice session. It creates a space where the student is personally fulfilled and is inspired to serve others. “It is a yoga which allows an ordinary person to live in the world, experience the ecstasy of consciousness, and then use the consciousness to serve humanity.” Says Yogi Bhajan, the man who brought these teachings to the West.
Let’s dive deep into what Kundalini Energy actually is. Kundalini means “coil of the hair of the beloved”, and it describes an energy that rests at the bottom of the spine. Through mixing the prana (positively charged energy that rises) and the apana (negatively charged energy that descends) at the navel point through breath, mental focus, and muscle pressure the Kundalini energy will rise through the sushmuna (the central energy channel, also called the Silver Cord).
Yogi Bhajan tells us this energy is “the energy of consciousness… When kundalini awakens, one understands the effect and impact of an action at the beginning of a sequence of action and reaction.” The goal is to have the kundalini energy functionally connect to the pineal gland. “Once that master gland, the channel of the soul, has started secreting, it will give you the power to reach your self-realization in relationship to the total universal awareness,” continues Yogi Bhajan.
This nicely ties into the third point of this discourse. How does Kundalini Yoga compare to other forms of yoga?
Though Patanjali codified the 8 limbs less than 2000 years ago ~ yoga has been practiced for over 100,000 years. All forms of yoga focus on stimulating and regulating the human energy that is the essence of consciousness. Originally yoga was holistic, permeating every level of human existence. Gradually as practitioners were drawn to different facets over 22 distinct forms of yoga emerged ~ there are fewer than 10 extant today. The one I was introduced to on the fateful California evening was Hatha Yoga, which focuses primarily on Asana and Pranayam. There is also Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Gyan Yoga, Raja Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Laya Yoga, and Tantric Yoga. Kundalini is a Raja Yoga (as is Ashtanga Yoga) ~ both are yogas of meditation.
Yoga brings humans closer to Spirit. Certain forms serve householders, certain forms serve ascetics, certain forms are designed for groups ~ all with the same aim.
If you stand still, God will find you.
That is what I experience with my chosen form of yoga ~ Kundalini Yoga.
(full disclosure, this was an exam question on my take home exam for my Kundalini Teacher Training Level One...but it was really fun to write and I think is worth sharing)